Omeleto

Dig

By Jono Seneff | Drama
A young man covers for his autistic brother when a neighbor's horse goes missing.

Caleb lives on a farm in a small Appalachian valley with his father and his brother Russell, who has autism. Their relationship is a loving, patient one, with Caleb as the steady, calm anchor for Russell.

But when a fence needs repairing and a neighbor's horse goes missing, Russell develops an antagonism for its owner, Charlotte, who is making the rounds in the valley in search of the steed. When things go awry, Caleb must cover for his brother, testing the bounds and limits of their relationship.

Written by David Hudson and Jono Seneff (who also serves as the film's director), this short family drama takes its visual aesthetic from the beautiful Appalachian setting of Asheville, North Carolina, where it was shot. Stunning shots of raw yet foreboding natural beauty are laced throughout the film. And as the characters wander in and out of the wide frame as the story progresses, it's as if the spirit of the valley and the mountains are watching them, implacable and stoic.

Within this setting, Caleb and Russell's story plays out with a steady yet ominous cadence, building one turn of event after another. The camerawork and editing are deliberate, lingering on telling details (like a lock left undone) and elongating moments with an uneasy poeticism.

Developed by the storytelling with great care, the two brothers are a study in contrasts. Actor Andrew Duff -- who himself has autism -- captures a core of wiry energy and a desire to explore anything from sex to the wider world. In many ways, he's a typical boisterous teenage boy or young man, but when combined with his autism, it makes for a volatile set of impulses. Actor Jack Kilmer's performance as Caleb forms the beating heart of the film, emanating a steady, patient affection for his brother as he answers his many questions and plays along with Russell's gambits. But Russell's rash actions create a difficult predicament that Caleb must handle, and soon a growing resentment comes to the fore.

Haunting, soulful and full of restrained yet intense emotion, "Dig" is bookended by two striking, almost ghostly images of a horse. They create a kind of totemic spirit that lingers through the film's duration and after, as Caleb wrestles with questions about his brother and the blurred borders of their relationship. Caleb may now be realizing how tightly bound he is to Russell -- bonds that are full of love, but will tether the pair to one another in a way that makes Caleb realize just what it means to be his "brother's keeper."





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